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New Mexicans Look to 2018 for Recreational Marijuana Legalization

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New Mexico lawmakers were hoping that 2017 would be the year that recreational marijuana was legalized in the state. Bills were introduced, but did not make it through the legislative process. Lawmakers and support from New Mexico residents said that legalizing recreational marijuana would help areas of the state in severe economic crisis.

Conservative Democrats have some of the blame placed on them, according to Albuquerque Journal. While Democrats regained control of the state’s House, measures to legalize recreational marijuana failed to even get a hearing in either chamber. Lawmakers that do support legal recreational marijuana are planning to focus their energy on next year’s attempt.

New Mexico will have a gubernatorial election next year, and many lawmakers are hoping for a change in governor. They would like to see a governor that is more supportive of recreational marijuana and more open-minded in general. Governor Susana Martinez is not a supporter of recreational marijuana.

Representative Bill McCamley, who has been leading marijuana legalization efforts in the state, said, “This is going to happen. You have overwhelming support for the policy.”

Polls conducted in late 2016 show that roughly 61-percent of New Mexico’s voters support legalizing, taxing and regulating recreational marijuana.

Some lawmakers fear that even if bills did pass that Governor Martinez would veto them. The only way to bypass that is to propose a constitutional amendment. That requires voter approval, however, the bills have to make it to the voters first – and that is where lawmakers supporting marijuana reform are having a bit of trouble.

The lawmakers supporting legalization estimate that $60-million or more in tax revenue could be generated from legal marijuana sales. This is tax money that many small or remote areas of the state desperately need.

U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham isn’t taking sides just yet, but said, “I understand and recognize both the economic benefit and the impact on the criminal justice system. New Mexico has the benefit of completely evaluating the impact that legalization has had on Colorado and Washington, including the impacts to neighboring states. That evaluation must include the potential negative effects on youth, and on urban, rural and tribal communities, particularly those with high rates of substance abuse and DWI, so that an informative and honest debate can occur with N.M. legislators.”

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said, “It’s time to legalize marijuana and establish a proper regulatory environment to tax and invest those monies into ending the cycle of substance addiction that is destroying the lives of New Mexico’s kids.”